Self-diagnosis: depression. Chronic. Years and years of.
It started after high school, when I left to go to Texas for a nanny job. I was struggling to find a purpose in what I was doing. Having always had amazing groups of friends throughout my life, this was my first time doing life alone. I relished it sometimes, enjoying the freedom of learning about who I was away from my family and friends. Key words: alone…free time….myself.
I moved back with my parents a year later, and thus began a few miserable years. I moved 3 times in 6 months, and found it difficult to make friendships. My friends from the past were still in contact, but I didn’t have the time or energy to forge new ones, if I was going to be leaving soon. Then I decided to go back to college, and there my closest friendships were made, and subsequently during my stint abroad. Developing meaningful relationships outside of myself and volunteering led to the most joy filled moments of my life. My happiest, lightest times were spent in the blazing desert sun of West Africa: I was sick, hungry, and struggling with learning the language but I have never experienced such a profound fullness of being. Because every waking moment was spent caring for others, and my purpose was loving others. The darkness crept back in when I found myself holed away in my home, on my couch, afraid to reach out to the others because of lack of stable homes, or this weird exhaustion of human interaction.
The heaviness settled in when I stopped asking what I could do for others, and began asking what I could do for myself.
Since coming back from my adventures, life has been a whirlwind of Crazy. I’ve moved 10 times in 3 years. This constant state of limbo left me feeling like it was pointless to build relationships, because there was no sense of permanence. I would invest in people, only to leave months later. I began curling into myself, shielding from the pain of losing people I loved and the risk of investing over and over again. The outreaches stopped, the volunteering stopped. Living in community with others was merely a memory.
Introverted though I am, I am a firm believer that humans need other humans to thrive. Some days the loneliness is so thick, I can’t move. I can’t leave my bed, I can’t find the will to go out into the beautiful California sun and partake of the life around me. I call my friends on the other side of the country, or world. I cry. I call my boyfriend who is still technically “long distance”, when he’s not working a few miles from my house. I cry.
Some days are better and I go out and walk and breathe and smile and talk with the people around and it’s pure medicine. I hike the trails by the beach and sit next to the elderly couple, or watch the young ones playing. I sign up to read my poetry in bookstores, and go to improv classes to laugh and laugh for hours. These are the good days, and they are rare. Most days, after stressful work, are spent in mental/emotional exhaustion and escapism. I’m cringing again, waiting for life to be better.
The problem is : Me. Me. Me. Me. This fascination with myself and my problems. You know what makes the good days good? The fact that I’m focused outwards: I’m talking to others, focusing on others.
Recently I’ve found a church, and got connected with a small group again. I am making myself stay, and open up to the life of friendship again because if I do not, my soul will die. I’m not being dramatic: years of extreme isolation are killing my heart.
Our lives, our entire purpose for being, “Raison d’etre” is to serve others. Jesus lived to serve. Paul lived to serve. It is the very Heart of God. Love Him, Love others. I know God desires us to live fully and freely in His Love, by giving what we have been freely given. This beautifully crafted system of giving, and thus receiving because of it, is God’s recipe for Joy.
I know deep down the cure is: making sure to spend quality time with the Lord, and investing in others. I was having a bad night last night, and then the idea came to me: Why don’t you volunteer again? Instead of succumbing to this 21st century mindset that life is all about Me, Myself, and I, why don’t I spend my free time loving others? Sure, my day job is giving, but my personal time? Let’s give that too.
I’m finding that contentment and joy are ruined by self-service. This whole culture is about Self-Love. “If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love others. Focus on YOU first.” That’s the worst advice I have ever been given. I truly believe this is why the anxiety and depression rates are sky high. We don’t need to love ourselves more! We naturally do this. We fixate and brood. We are consumed in ourselves. The cure for down days, is shifting focus and giving Love to others.
What a trick of the enemy: getting us to forget one another and our call to love, and instead obsess over ourselves! How ineffective this renders us!
This heaviness and loneliness and deep sadness are due to too much self-centered attentions, and not enough human to human connection. I’m excited to bloom again, hand in hand with community around me. It will take time, and effort, but living fully is better than hardly living at all.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ” _Hebrews 10: 24-25